Republican senators, assured HB2020 is dead, return to work Saturday to close out Legislature

Enough Oregon Republican senators will return to the Capitol for the chamber to do business Saturday.

The announcement was made at a Friday morning news conference in the Senate Republican office.

The Senate will convene at 9 a.m. Saturday, and will have until 11:59 p.m. Sunday to work through as many bills as possible. There are 103 stacked up waiting for action.

Not all 12 Republican senators will return, but only two are needed to provide a quorum so the body can operate. Baertschiger said the majority of them will show up.

There was no immediate response from Senate Democrats or Gov. Kate Brown.

Republicans walked out June 20 to stop a vote on a sweeping environmental proposal that has been in their crosshairs since the first day of session. During the walkout, Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, announced that he didn’t even have the 16 votes of from the 18 Democratic senators needed to pass the bill.

Still, that declaration didn’t immediately bring Republicans back as they said they didn’t trust that the bill was dead, and they were concerned over some other policy bills.

The policy – House Bill 2020 – will still need action. Because it’s on the “third read” calendar, it has to come up when the Senate reconvenes, either for a direct vote or on decision to return it to a committee to die.

The tension now will be over what remaining legislation get consideration first. Republicans would like to take up budget bills as they are not controversial and bring money back to their districts.

But Democrats know if they stack the calendar with budget bills, Republicans could walk out before policy bills are taken up. There are several controversial items in the queue, chief among them is Senate Bill 116.

Baertschiger said he hopes the Senate can agree to take up budget bills first, and then work through policy bills.

That proposal would push a potential referendum on a business tax package to fund education to a special election in January, rather than the regular election in November 2020. Republicans think the tax package on the ballot would energize their base, boosting their candidates up for re-election in November.

To rearrange the order of bills, the Senate needs Republican support to suspend the rules. A spokesman for House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, said Friday that he wasn’t sure if the chamber would give full rules suspension. Baertschiger said Friday they would allow rule suspension on some bills, but not all.

The fight will likely continue through the weekend. 

This story will be updated.